Bob Manka is currently the Club's Recording Secretary and an Executive Committee member. Bob is also known for organizing the Group Rides for the Back Roads Century.
Bob began cycling years ago while in graduate school at Rice University and working at NASA in Houston. He and his (then) wife took up cycling with the Houston Bicycle Club. Riding the outskirts of Houston and the Texas countryside was therapeutic for knee strains that occurred the previous summer in Canada, while hiking to the back side of the Mount Robson glacier after launching scientific balloons near the Canadian Rockies.
|Bob Manka In the Alps as a young man.|
Just after finishing graduate school Bob had one of the highlight experiences of his life, a cycling tour of the Swiss Alps, the French Pyrenees, and southern England. This tour, put together by dear Houston friends, the Alfreds, took about 35 flatlanders to the high European passes, including some of the Tour de France climbs in the Pyrenees such as the Col d'Aubisque, Col du Soulor, and the Col du Tourmalet. Two, including Bob, went down the west side of the Tourmalet, carrying bikes across a quarter mile of snow glacier from the summit to where crews were clearing the 12 feet of snow to open the pass for the Tour de France to follow a few weeks later. After passing the snow, rocks, and water on the narrow road, the ride down the mountain was spectacular, dropping thousands of feet in a few miles. The sweeping turns allowed a very fast descent with little braking, which sent Bob's Peugeot PX-10 literally flying off some of the rises in the road. It was one of those lifetime thrills. The next day brought the climb of the Col du Soulor and its link to the summit of the Col d'Aubisque along the narrow road cut into the steep mountainside. At one point the road went through a short tunnel, but the entrance was blocked by a snow slide from above, sloping to the edge of the road, and a sheer drop over the edge. Laying his bike on the snow slide and digging his bike pedals in to prevent slipping, Bob crept across the snow to an opening into the tunnel and on toward the d'Aubisque. Pictured is a self-timed photo taken at the d'Aubisque summit; the picture above the clouds appeared in the Houston Chronicle in a multi-page story on the tour with the caption "It's Lonely at the Top."
Growing up in southern Colorado, Bob owned horses and worked some on ranches while in junior high and high school. He went to a liberal arts college in Colorado Springs for a major in physics and math. After a tour in the Army laboratories, Bob had a fellowship at Dartmouth, where he earned a master's degree in physics. Bob's career then took priority, taking him away from cycling, but also bringing him to the Washington D.C. area.
Bob finally found some time for cycling just 10 years ago. He went on a number of Club rides and really enjoyed the rides, people, and social activities. He naturally began leading a few rides in Virginia. Among his favorite rides are from Vienna on the W&OD trail, Mason Neck, and the Back Roads Century and Farm Tour as well as along the southern California coast. In 2010, Woody Lipinski started a group ride at the Back Roads Century, and in 2011 Mark Alpert expanded the group rides to include 100-BB down to 25-C groups. In 2012 and 2013 Bob organized the group rides at the Club's Back Roads Century; a 100-A ride was added at Matt Birnbaum's suggestion. In 2013, over 300 riders signed up for the rides. These Group Rides are a "work in progress" and present several challenges, including adding to the pleasure of those participating while not negatively impacting the other Century riders. The rides have had superb leaders; many of the best leaders in the Club have contributed. A great deal of attention has been paid to safety, courtesy, and keeping the groups a reasonable size. The ride leaders have been active participants with Bob in planning and structuring these groups. In 2013, Bob was elected to be the Club Executive Committee's recording secretary.
|Bob Manka in 2013 with his Cervelo.|
A few years ago, while in southern California, Bob saw cyclists everywhere and decided it was time to get something more modern than his trusty PX 10. He shopped seriously, getting up to speed on newer developments such as carbon fiber, index shifting, and the various cleat systems, and he really enjoyed the feeling of riding a light, responsive racing bike. After receiving some good advice from Pedalers by email, he ended up getting a Cervelo SLC. He said that shopping for a fine, but expensive, bicycle is like dating an attractive woman - all sense of reason just goes out the window!
Bob had great experiences riding with several San Diego bicycle clubs along the Pacific Coast Highway (a recreational and beach town road now with wide bike lanes) along the ocean through La Jolla, Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Encinitas, as well as Coronado Island and around the San Diego bay and marinas. The next ride he leads may be to take a group of Pedalers to the West Coast!